KUALA LUMPUR - Loan sharks are becoming increasingly violent, with some setting cars on fire and throwing petrol bombs into the homes of defaulting borrowers.
"While they are doing this to harass the borrowers, they are also putting the lives of others in danger," said MCA Public Services and Complaint Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong.
"If the fire spreads, it may also burn down the neighbouring houses," he said at the MCA Public Services and Complaints Department here yesterday.
He said 239 cases of individuals and families being harassed by the loan sharks were reported to the department during the first six months of this year, compared to only 356 cases last year.
Chong said the cases this year involved more than RM14mil owed to loan sharks.
Most of the victims had borrowed the money for gambling while others had taken loans to start businesses, he said.
He said it was worrying that many students had also begun taking loans from loan sharks to feed their online gambling habit.
"The loan sharks are not to blame entirely as many of them are victims' as well.
"Some people take loans saying they need to start businesses but use the money to gamble instead and then are unable pay back what they owe," he said.
On May 20, a 44-year-old engineer, who only wanted to be known as Ong, was shocked to find the front porch of his house in Klang on fire.
Ong claimed that it was the work of a group of loan sharks searching for his sister and her husband who fled in February after failing to pay their debts.
His car was smashed and splashed with red paint. The loan sharks also threw Molotov cocktails into his porch.
On Monday, the loan sharks struck again, setting fire to his car.
"My neighbours are asking me to move out as they fear for their lives too," he said.
In another case, restaurant owner K.S. Chai claimed that the two joint shoplots he owned in Klang were badly damaged on May 20 after one of the 13 loan sharks he had borrowed money from used Molotov cocktails to set the premises on fire.